Thursday, August 22, 2013


In a recent article in The New York Times -- BlackBerry Sends a Message -- the reporter suggests a new "unforgiving law of modern business" -- "adapt fast -- or die even faster." I am certain that in growing his business this is a maxim that Michael Siegal has followed 24/7. And I would wager that back at Dockers, if a new design of a pair of khakis wasn't selling, those pants would be yanked faster than you can say "Jerry Silverman." Yet, precisely because of the factors we have so recently discussed on these pages, there is nothing that seems to presently compel JFNA to "adapt" and change.

Examples abound: "Community Heroes" failed...but was repeated; "#ish" failed...but was repeated; the Global Planning Table has seen constant rejection by the federations...but it moves inexorably forward as if it had been embraced...and on and on...and on and on. The critical issues of the day -- the most serious of which is the system-wide decline in Annual Campaigns, the very lifeblood of the federations -- ignored.

Let's take a careful look at just one core concern within the Global Planning Table "process." After an extensive and elaborate closed faux process, the Global Planning Table Committee (I honestly don't recall which decision-making body within the GPT this one is -- the one chaired by David Butler or that chaired by Kathy Manning, but never mind) determined to move forward with a single Signature Initiative "focusing on Immersive Experiences." (This was announced mid-June with a promise "to develop a specific work plan" by June's end. If you or anyone has seen such, please advise.) The "plans" will flow to the GPT Committee on 9/11. (As usual for JFNA, all "plans" must be finalized to emerge at the GA, ready or not, because then there will be microphone involvement.) What's an "Immersive Experience?" Most assuredly, JAFI's MASA and teachers' pet Birthright Israel. As predicted on these pages, if true to form, funding will come not from increased federation resources but from the core allocations to the Jewish Agency and Joint.

And, then, in the midst of all of this, the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel announced (at the end of July) that the Israeli Prime Minister had called upon the Jewish Agency " articulate a conceptual framework -- The Prime Minister's Initiative -- for the dramatic expansion of efforts to fortify young Jews' connection to Israel." There are four critical elements to the Initiative: Israel Education, Israel Experiences, Israel Engagement on College Campus and Aliyah of Young Adults. The PM and Agency announced that "[T]he intention is to build the initiative from $30 million in 2014 to $300 million annually within five years." 

So, here is that "Big Idea" that JFNA has been searching for with increasing frustration -- a billion dollar Big Idea, that will call upon the federations for "total immersion" through funding and participation. And, have you heard anything from JFNA about the Prime Minister's Initiative? Of course not -- because, even as JFNA is bereft of ideas, big or small, it doesn't seem to want them coming from a "partner" it wants so badly to abandon (JAFI not the GOI). You have heard nothing from JFNA except, perhaps, CEO Jerry and his minions whining about "being left out" and all of the things that are wrong with the Initiative (read that as "left out"). You would think that after almost two months since the announcement of the Initiative JFNA would be wildly cheering...but no -- JFNA is so totally focused on the Global Planning Table that, apparently, it can only evaluate the Prime Minister's Initiative based on its implications for its own "Signature Initiative." Two weeks after the initial announcement JFNA is doing what is right -- publicly announcing its embrace of the PM/JAFI Initiative and stating "count on us" in its own way. CEO Jerry told The Forward "[W]e're going to be at the table together, working arm in arm." How? Who knows? Inasmuch as the specifics have yet to be worked out in any way, further comment must await them -- or at least should.

Please attend the General Assembly where you will learn about the Prime Minister's Initiative from, no doubt, the Prime Minister. If they keep up what they are not doing, it won't be long now that JFNA will join the Blackberry and the Dodo bird -- in extinction.



Anonymous said...

You see, were JFNA to truly embrace the PM's Initiative, it would be an acknowledgement of how much that organization has failed to produce even one successful idea, big or small over its life.

Anonymous said...

What makes the post all the more poignant is that JFNA staffers are still using those ancient Blackberry devices that most of us discarded some time ago in favor of the iphone or android platform.